‘Outsiders’ Postmortem: Actress Talks About Her Character’s Shocking Death and the Evidence She Left Behind

Gillian Alexy as G’Win and Thomas M. Wright as Wade Houghton (Credit: WGN America)
Gillian Alexy as G’Win and Thomas M. Wright as Wade Houghton (Credit: WGN America)

Warning: The interview for the “The Run” episode of Outsiders contains storyline and character spoilers.

It seemed pretty clear the fight between the coal company and the Farrells was likely to end in some bloodshed, but who would have predicted coal company rep Haylie Grimes would be the first victim, and, we’re guessing, at the hands of her employers?

But once the tough businesswoman showed some sympathy for the folks up on Shay Mountain, going so far as to vow to help them push back against the coal company’s poisoning of their water and soil, it went quickly downhill and just as quickly got decidedly dangerous for Ms. Grimes, who ended the episode hanging from the curtain rod in her hotel shower.

She did leave those poisoned soil and water samples behind, though, and star Francie Swift, who portrays Haylie, told Yahoo TV Haylie’s efforts are likely to reverberate throughout the series even into next season. Swift, the House of Cards, Gossip Girl, and The Good Wife alum whose Haylie was a central figure on the WGN America drama since Season 1, also talked about Haylie’s complicated relationship with Sheriff Wade Houghton, the “Hobbit” feet that helped her get through Haylie’s barefoot mountain climb, getting redemption before her harsh murder, and which is more awkward: filming a death scene or a love scene.

We were just getting to really know some things about Haylie, seeing these other sides to her.
I know. I know. I did like that I got a little redemption before the end, though. That was kind of nice that you did see that Haylie wasn’t all bad, that there is a little something in there redeemable, perhaps.

Francie Swift as Haylie Grimes (Credit: WGN America)
Francie Swift as Haylie Grimes (Credit: WGN America)

I think going all the way back to when Haylie did that favor for Wade and Ledda, backdating Breece’s employment date so that Ledda had health insurance — she was really taking a risk with her own job there — that was a little hint at what she was really made of.
I think that’s true. And I think that was a really nice thing [the writers] gave me in Season 2, some of that other side of her, to work with. It’s really fun to play the villain, but you really need, you know, to have some real depth of character. No one thinks they’re a bad person. Everybody has something redeemable in them.

We also got more of a sense of her motivations in Season 2. She talked a bit about her family, and how her job had cost her in that area. Of course that job is going to be very important to her, then, if she gave all that up for the job.
Absolutely. Yeah, and that she’d done it to take care of her son. You know, she had to do it in a way, because she felt financial care trumped the hands-on care at that point. She was doing it for her family.

Did you know this would be Haylie’s whole arc when you joined the show?
No, I didn’t. It kind of developed as they went on. There were still things that would surprise me when I got scripts. I had an idea of some of the broad strokes for Season 2, certainly. But [series creator] Peter Mattei’s always been great about asking for input and ideas from the actors, as well. But some of it was a real surprise to me, as well.

Was the way that Haylie exits a surprise?
I knew she was going to exit, but I didn’t know exactly how. I liked that it leaves the door open for who is the real bad guy, you know? It opens up a lot of questions for Season 3.

Wade noted what G’Win said about the soil and the water on the mountain, about it being poisoned. He saw Haylie with those jars of soil and water samples. And he certainly has no trust or fondness or respect for Matt Myers. So Haylie’s intentions, her good deeds in those last days, seem destined to carry on throughout the series.
I think they will. I think it’s interesting that you see her, Haylie, and the sheriff become closer and on the same page after she’s gone… this strange postmortem relationship they have, where they’re finally on the same page.

Do you think there was always of a certain chemistry between them, Haylie and Wade? They didn’t get along, bitterly at some points, but there always a feeling that they did kind of like each other. I thought there was even little hints that it might lead to romance. Was that ever a discussion with the writers?
I agree [about the chemistry]. There wasn’t anything out front, but I think it was certainly kind of an odd flirtation that went on between them. I don’t think it was ever, at least that I heard, it was never discussed that they were headed for a straight-on relationship with each other. But I kind of liked that, you know, the witty banter that was there, and a little bit of flirtation in with the irritation. I thought that was fun.

James McCauley as Matt Myers and Francie Swift as Haylie Grimes (Credit: WGM America)
James McCauley as Matt Myers and Francie Swift as Haylie Grimes (Credit: WGM America)

In this episode, Matt Myers warns Haylie. It’s unclear if he’s the main bad guy, but he certainly frightens her enough that she hides some of the water and the soil in the salt and peppers shakers. And while she’s shocked that her company would go as far as to do this to the Farrells, she does take those threats seriously. So where was Haylie, in terms of how she felt about her company? Did she suspect they might be capable of sabotage on this level, or possibly worse?
I think she’s used to that, the corporate expectation of, you do whatever it takes to get your job done. I think as much of a baddie as she could be, she was really just trying to get [the Farrells] moved into condos, you know? There was a limit to her nefariousness. I think she was utterly shocked that someone would go, that her company that she’s devoted her life to and feels quite a bit of loyalty to, would go to that extreme. I think she really thought that was a boundary that would never be crossed. But when she sees it done… like with any corporation, it’s a many-headed hydra… you don’t know what all the heads are doing. You know what I mean?

Matt Myers isn’t necessarily carrying out orders given from above. Often things happen that are not unilateral decisions that everyone in the corporation is aware of. So I think she just all of the sudden realizes the shaky ground she’s standing on, and she’s not really sure, did this come from my boss? Did this come from Matt? Where did this come from?

I think the attempt at hiding the evidence is just her little insurance policy. She gets how big the stakes are. She’s very aware of the dollar numbers there and the risk she’s taking to try and help out and make things right with the Farrells.

Do you think she hid that bit of evidence thinking that maybe Wade would figure things out if something did happen to her?
I think, yes. I think that’s, I mean, that was in my head, anyway. I think that one of the interesting things about their relationship is she really thought she had him pegged [in Season 1] as this drug-addled, do-nothing sheriff. And he really rose, he taught her a lesson. He was a lot more than that. And she gained begrudging respect for him. I think at this point in the story, she realizes he’s actually pretty good at his job. I think she does realize that that’s a possibility, that it is like leaving a note for Wade.

David Morse as Big Foster and Francie Swift as Haylie Grimes (Credit: WGM America)
David Morse as Big Foster and Francie Swift as Haylie Grimes (Credit: WGM America)

Haylie is a very professional, impeccably dressed woman. What was it like for you filming those scenes where Big Foster is forcing her through the woods, up the mountain? I was cringing for her, because she was walking through those woods without shoes.
Yes, that was really funny. Very much a departure, and it was funny because, you know, really, I didn’t have a lot of interaction with all of the actors that play any of the Farrell clan. My scenes were usually shot in the town or on the stages, so there was this whole other world, and I was playing scenes with [actors] in locations that I’d only seen on television before this season. It was really fun, and it really added to the veracity of the feeling of acting for me, to be there and be seeing it all, kind of for the first time. To have it be that new to me.

And I basically wore the same costume for a month. It only was two episodes, but they had many versions of it. There was a slightly less dirty and a slightly more dirty version, but it was literally the same dress and jacket for a month. They had these funny little fake feet made for me, so I’m not actually barefoot filming it. It looks like I am, but I’m wearing these funny little Hobbit feet over my feet, so I could run through the woods and not get hurt.

That’s so funny, before you said “Hobbit”, I was thinking, are they like Hobbit feet?
They are totally like Hobbit feet. They’re like feet slippers. They’re like silicone feet slippers, and they make them to mold to your feet.

So they’re customized, you have to be fitted for them?
Yeah, oh, I did. I went into this great special effects shop we work with, and they made casts of my feet. Very funny process.

Did you get to keep them?
There’s like a pile of feet sitting there. I couldn’t [keep them], they need to keep them for continuity, but I would love to have them when they’re done. I asked the special effects house for that. And I did take my son back, and we did a tour, and they showed him how they were made and all the other cool special effects at the house. They were super nice folks.

Francie Swift as Haylie Grimes (Credit: WGM America)
Francie Swift as Haylie Grimes (Credit: WGM America)

Haylie is one of the few people who has gotten to experience both of those worlds, the town life and the mountain life, pretty intimately. She really did get a feel for how the Farrells live.
Yeah, and I think it was fun to see. Really, there was a lot that, as audience members, no one had seen before that episode. You hadn’t really seen some of the functions of the town, you know, how the shoes get made and how the, just kind of the daily life of the Farrells, which I thought was interesting. For me, it was beautiful to see. It was beautiful to see it shot. But I also just thought as an audience member it’s fun to get that, more of that feeling of what mountain life was like.

It was. It almost felt like a vacation somewhere in Colonial Williamsburg or somewhere that you would go and get to experience a different culture or time up close.
[Laughs.] Right. Exactly.

Now, the final scene. Very graphic. Is that you in the shower?
That was me, yeah. That was really me. And hats off to the special effects house.

As an actress, you’re likely to have to film some death scenes in your career. But again, this one was pretty graphic, and came at the end of a very intense storyline and episode. What was that like?
It was a little cathartic, honestly. I told my mom not to watch it, you know? When you know it’s going to be a little too graphic. I don’t know how to… it is an emotionally strange thing, because you are saying goodbye to a character who, if you’ve played them for a couple of years, becomes like a friend. I think it was absolutely the right arc for Haylie, but there is that strangeness. And a lot of times, you don’t know if you’re saying goodbye to a character. In this one, I was very clear for a long time leading up to it that I was, so it was an interesting process. And I’ve never, although I’ve died in plenty of things before, I’ve never had that particular demise. Just the technical aspects of that were weird and interesting to do.

Is it a very long, meticulous process for that particular kind of death scene?
It is. Just to get the makeup leading up to it right and getting the rig set up and all that is definitely takes a bit of time. And I think that you also never know until you’re on the set how you’re going to have to shoot it to make it work. How many other little adjustments you’re going to need to do to make it look real. So you’re also kind of just hanging for a long period of time while everybody tries to make it look right, which is a weird, awkward. And everybody feels the awkwardness of the situation. It’s just kind of a bizarre situation. We all laughed it off, and it was fine, but it is one of those weird moments. Death scenes and love scenes are always the weirdest things.

In general, which are weirder? Which tend to be more awkward?
You know, I’d have to say love scenes are more awkward, honestly.

And you had that too, this season, with Haylie and Gordon Jerrod. You and Haylie both really had a pretty amazing, wide scope of experiences in Season 2.
That was fun, and Adam [David Thompson], the actor I worked with, was great, and it was as natural as it could be under a weird circumstance like that. We laughed a lot, and that’s the key to love scenes. You just have to laugh a lot.

Outsiders airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on WGN America.

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